Holy Hot Water

I come from a long line of Altar Guild women. I remain fully convinced that 5 minutes after Henry VIII created the church of England, one of my distant ancestors began tormenting a parish priest because he dripped wine. I suppose it was, ultimately, my destiny. But destiny failed me, and did not equip me with an innate knowledge of what to do with linens. There's a book. I didn't get the book. (You knew there would be a book, didn't you?)

I'm still not entirely sure how I came to join the Altar Guild. These were the women I both mocked, and I confess, was terrified of. Truly, I tell you, any sane person should be scared of these women. It is simply not normal that anyone could be that distressed over candle wax on a linen table cloth. It's frightening when it's your mother, foaming at the mouth.

And when you are the youth pastor, and you are caught between a young man who is terrified and traumatized and refusing to come to church, and a foaming mother; honestly about all you can think of to say is "Back away. Don't make eye contact."

For those that have managed to remain blissfully unaware, the Altar Guild is responsible for the care and maintenance of the church. Specifically the bit with the altar in it. They get a room, called the sacristy. They take care of the linens used on the altar(!), set out communion, arrange the flowers, change the hangings so they are the right colour at the right time (which changes more often than is entirely reasonable), and generally strike fear and terror into the lives of young men and women who are unfortunate enough to become altar assistants - the nemesis of any woman on Altar Guild. And when they come to see you, in full sail, you run. Or shove your husband in front of them.

And somehow, because these women have a club name, and they have their own room, you just knew they would have their own language. I have to take a purificator and a veil (and supposedly corporals too, but I'm getting ahead of myself.) and I have to, well, wash them and fold them. And of course if they have their own room and their own language, and everyone is scared of them, you know that we aren't talking putting them in the wash with your light-coloured load and folding them in half and calling it done.

I did what any sensible Anglican daughter does. I took a deep breath, and called the Anglican mother. Who became very distressed that I had the holy linens in the holy linen bag on my stove. I was told to put them in a plastic container with mild soap, and not to throw the water out.

I found a juice jug. And I put the holy linens, still in the holy linen bag into my orange juice jug. Where they sat until Wednesday night.

The Anglican mother arrived, under full sail, thrilled to be able to educate her 30 year old daughter. Somehow the basics of cooking and cleaning and mending escaped her, but by golly (or possibly by corporal), she was going to show me what to do with the holy linens.

We both experienced a let down, when she pulled out the holy linens, which were still in the holy bag out of the now holy juice jug (as it turns out the bag isn't holy, it's just a bag). That was the first time she called me by all three of my first names.

And then we had to wash them. Which means rinsing them three times. Apparently there is a trinity of laundry. Who knew? And when you have holy linens and a not-so holy bag, and a holy juice jug, you get holy water. I was dispatched to water the mum's on the front porch with the holy water. I guess I have holy mum's now too.

I came back in to a question. All three full names and my maiden name. It probably didn't help that I looked at her blankly. After all, there are the thingies that go over the chalice, and the whatchamacallit that goes over the reserve sacrament, and there is the cardboard covered in linen bit, which is called a pall, but is not to be confused by the large cloth that goes over the casket, which is also called a pall. And there is the coloured stuff that drives me crazy and strikes fear in my heart when I realize I have to change colours. There's a lot of coloured stuff, and it is all over the church. But she wanted to know where the corporals were? And there should be three? (Surprise, I know). And I didn't know what a corporal was?

She described it. We hit all five names, three given, one maiden, and one married, when I told her that those were still clean, so I popped them (reverently, honest, I swear, really) back in the cupboard of the scary room err, sacristy. Apparently my attempts at preserving the (not-so) holy bag and the creation of a holy juice jug were not enough to save me from not. washing. something. that. had. been. used. on. the. ALTAR.

And we washed, and then I got the holy? iron, and the holy? ironing board. And I learned to iron and fold. There is, in case you were interested, trinity of ironing too (You're surprised, right?). We iron one side. Flip to iron the other. At this point the holy linens have approached the texture of holy cardboard, and the holy iron is making holy flatulent sounds. The sound of the iron made my mother use all my names, again. I may be getting another iron for my birthday, which is great, except that I'm not sure what I do with the old holy? iron. . .

I have the holy linens, folded in three(!) and ironed for a third time and they are straight (I hauled out the blocking yardstick to make sure - thanks Kuri!) the not-so holy bag (also ironed, just in case?), the holy juice jug(can I de-consecrate this, do you think?) the holy mums, the holy iron, the holy ironing board, and a holy Safeway bag I put the holy linens in.

I'm just not so sure I'm cut out for this level of holiness.